Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Logic of Christianity 3: The Four Logical Explosions of Human History

What is a “logical explosion”? The phrase “paradigm shift” was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, to describe the fact that scientists do NOT passively allow their thoughts to GRADUALLY change over time, in a linear fashion. Instead, every now and then, there is an “EXPLOSION” that destroys the old paradigm and replaces it with a new paradigm. The scientific community realizes that the paradigm (or pattern of discovering truth) that it had been using is defective. The pattern no longer works satisfactorily to explain reality—as when the notion that the sun revolved around the earth no longer satisfactorily explained the relationship between our planet and sun. In the scientific community, then, a paradigm shift or scientific revolution occurs. The old pattern of detecting reality is discarded and a brand new pattern takes its place. This is a logical explosion, of sorts. The most recent major paradigm shift that rocked the world occurred somewhere close to the time I was born. It was the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism. (I will consider this Postmodern shift, later, as the Fourth Logical Explosion.) The fact that these paradigm shifts occur is actually evidence that “action” exists (as opposed to sheer “motion”). The scientists are “agents” who of their own “free will” “act” in accordance with their own “purposes.” In order to have “action,” according to Kenneth Burke, there must be an “agent” who “acts.” That agent must have “free will” to act in accordance with his own “purpose.” If there is no free will involved (as when a bird builds a nest, according to “instinct”--not free will--in the same way every other bird of its species builds it), this is not “action”—it is “motion.” A rock tumbling down the hillside is not “acting,” but it is “moving.” The rock has no free will; it is moving in accordance with the law of gravity. (Nevertheless, if an “agent” with free will “intentionally” kicks the rock to initiate its downward motion, “action” is involved.)
Following the gist of Kuhn’s “paradigm shift” terminology, but applying it to the broader sphere of the “human” community—not just the “scientific” community, as Kuhn limits his term—I detect four “MAJOR LOGICAL EXPLOSIONS” in human history. These are times when virtually all of humanity discards the old ways of viewing the world and substitutes brand new ways of viewing reality. I call these times “explosions” rather than “shifts” or even “revolutions” because their effects are seismologically far greater than even Kuhn’s paradigm shifts. They each entail drastic observable behavior changes that appear to affect virtually the entire human population (not just science). The four explosions occurred at 1) the dawn of man, 2) the time of Jesus, 3) the Renaissance, and 4) the middle of the Twentieth Century. Kuhn’s paradigm shifts cannot comprise these explosions because science (in Kuhn’s sense of the word) did not exist at the dawn of man or at the time of Jesus. Kuhn is useful in pointing to the various tremors (or paradigm shifts) that occurred during the Renaissance and afterward, but the Renaissance itself was the “explosion.” Constant “shifts” in the tectonic plates produce minor tremors that constantly reshape the earth, but a gigantic shift or earthquake, such as many fear could happen due to the San Andreas fault, might actually reshape a continent. Just as the asteroid explosion that scientists want to credit with the disappearance of the dinosaur reshaped the physical landscape, so these four logical explosions have reshaped the landscape of human logic.
THE DAWN OF MAN. Before the dawn of man, no carbon-based life forms exercised “action.” Only “motion.” There was no free will. Botanical and zoological life forms, so far as we can tell, “behaved” only in predictable, instinctive, deterministic ways. I use the term “behave” advisedly. “Behaviorism” relates to “motion;” it is a study of what animals do, not what humans do. According to Kenneth Burke, humans “act,” rather than “behave.” On page 134 of my book Implicit Rhetoric: Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy, I point out:
“Burke is concerned with the essential nature of mankind (CS 219). He asserts that "a definition of [hu]man is at least implicit in any writer's comments on cultural matters" (LSA 2), and he thereupon serves notice that he rejects the reductionism of the behaviorist view of humankind (DD 11). It is human language which, for Burke, distinguishes humankind from all other animal life. Burke tells his audience at the Heinz Werner Lectures: ‘I had in mind the particular aptitude that the human biologic organism has for the learning of conventional symbol systems (such as tribal languages), our corresponding dependence upon this aptitude, and the important role it plays in the shaping of our experience.’ (DD 15) . . . I [earlier] consider the issue of determinism and free will in connection with Burke's preference for the term "motive" rather than "cause" as an explanation of human action. . . . [Burke] actually believes that human symbolicity implies free will. Otherwise, he would not have taken "sides against behaviorist reductionism" (DD 11). Yet, Burke accedes to biological determinism insofar as human animality is concerned. Burke locates the deterministic factor for humankind in the realm of human animality. He locates free will in the realm of human symbolicity.”
What kinds of “actions” did humans engage in at the dawn of man? Burke has already mentioned the use of symbols (words, language). Animals do not choose the means by which they communicate; humans do. You or I may choose to speak English, German, Spanish, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, etc. For an animal, there is no communicative choice. If one is a dog, one barks; a cat meows; a bird chirps; a cow moos, etc. Furthermore, the other members of the animal’s species instinctively understand the meaning of the specific animal’s communication. Not so, with humans. I do not understand Chinese, Japanese, etc. In addition to language use, Burke notes that humans design and make tools to separate them from their natural condition. Stone Age humans developed stone knives, axes, spear heads, arrows, etc. And, then, they did something with these tools that they had made that indicated an important logical explosion: They “buried” these tools with their dead! Why? The best explanation anthropologists can put forth is that these early humans “believed” in an afterlife, and wanted their dead relatives to have access to these tools in that afterlife. This is RELIGION! On page 93 of my book Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, I observe:
“Anthropologists are interested in human views of the afterlife. Dennis O’Neil, on the website ‘Evolution of Modern Humans: Archaic Human Culture’ (, writes: ‘The Neandertal ritual burial of their own dead implies a belief in an afterlife. This is basically a rudimentary religious concept. Likewise, the ritual burial of cave bear trophy heads is consistent with a supernatural belief system.’”
Religious belief (the belief in the afterlife) was the first logical explosion. There were no signs of religious belief anywhere else in the animal world. The term “logos” from which the word logic is formed means “word.” A syllogistic chain (or logical sequence) began just as soon as this carbon-based being was capable of using “words.” The ability to use logic in making words was extended to using logic to make stone tools. And the ability to use logic for making words and tools gave birth to the first “logical” view of human existence in the world: there probably is an afterlife. Other logical sequences (syllogistic chains) seem to have developed in human cultures: 1. If there is an afterlife, some beings must be living in some realm beyond the mortal human realm. 2. If there are beings who are beyond mortality, they must be superior to mortal humans. 3. If beings that are superior to mortal humans exist, these beings must in some sense be more powerful than humans, and it may be in the best interest of humans to make these beings well-disposed to the weaker mortals. 4. To curry the favor of these more powerful beings, humans should sacrifice animals (and other mortal humans?) to these immortal beings. Animal (and, sometimes, human) sacrifice developed in virtually every religion on earth. Even the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans whose world empires took turns encompassing the small religious culture of Israel practiced animal sacrifice, as did Israel . . . UNTIL the time of Jesus.
THE TIME OF JESUS. The death of Jesus, somewhere around 30 AD, began a logical explosion. For Christians, the logical need for animal sacrifice was annihilated. No longer was any animal sacrifice necessary, because Jesus, as the sacrificial lamb, perfected and thus finished all need for blood sacrifice. The logical explosion ensued, throughout the empire. In 70 AD, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman legions. The great Jewish religion, which for thousands of years had followed a code of animal sacrifice to atone for sins, immediately and totally ceased all animal sacrifice. Never again would animals be sacrificed in a priestly Jewish cult. Fewer than 300 years later, Constantine decriminalized Christianity and, in 380 AD, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Sacrifices to the Roman pantheon of gods ceased. For a thousand years, the logic of Christianity progressively engulfed the world.
The Christian religion grew like wildfire. The civilized world embraced not only Jesus, but also the entire logical system: his God, the God of Abraham, and the moral code of ancient Judaism, the Ten Commandments (even if all humans in the world—or in the church—did not always obey the code). Even the upstart new religion of Muhammed, in the 7th Century, agreed that the one true God was the God of Abraham. Progressively, all vestiges of early pagan religions were being erased . . . UNTIL the Renaissance.
THE RENAISSANCE. The explosion began when Christians’ faith in the promised return of Jesus did not materialize at the time they expected it. John Thomas Didymus, who apparently believes that Christians should accept the conclusion that their hope in the return of Christ might well be mistaken, states the situation fairly in his article “Failed End-of-World Predictions of Jesus’ Coming: Montanists and the Ecumenical Council (1000 AD)”:
“The Ecumenical Council sitting in 999 declared solemnly that the world would end on January 1, 1000 A.D. That was the signal for mass madness. On the last day of the year, St. Peter's at Rome was filled with a crazed mass of people, weeping, trembling, screaming in fear of the Day of the Lord. They thought that God would send fire from heaven and burn the world to ashes. Many rich and wealthy people gave away their possessions to the poor to make heaven. They dressed up in sackcloth and poured ashes over themselves. The grounds of St. Peter's on new year's eve was filled with people vying to outdo each other in acts of penance and self-mortification, self-mutilation and flagellation. Some branded their skins with hot iron to prove their repentance; some were actually beaten to death by overzealous mates. But new year came and passes [sic] and nothing happened.” (Article Source:
And yet, something DID happen—an explosive fuse was lit! Just as it took nearly 400 years to enact the full effects of the logical explosion occurring at Jesus’ death, it took roughly 400 years from the disappointment of Jesus’ non-return in 1000 to enact the full effects of that logical explosion. The Christianized world had begun (in 1000 AD) to lose faith in Christianity as the single source of truth. The Renaissance (dating from the late 14th century AD) was a rebirth of interest in classical Greek and Roman culture and philosophy. Humans world-wide looked to other humans as the source of truth, as they systematically doubted the truth that was being fed to them by the Church. An extremely important development in this logical explosion of doubt was the work of the philosopher Rene DesCartes. In my book, Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, pages 6, I write:
“The seventeenth century philosopher Rene DesCartes . . . is credited with founding Modernism. His methodological doubt suggested that Realists should doubt everything that could be doubted. Whatever is left is truth. This is the basis of the scientific method. Scientists make propositions that they are not entirely certain of. These uncertain propositions are called ‘hypotheses.” Scientists, then, attempt to systematically ‘doubt’ their hypotheses. They conduct experiments, to see if they can disprove the hypotheses. If they cannot doubt the hypotheses, these hypotheses are considered ‘truth.’ Empiricists, following DesCartes, suggested that one could doubt everything that is not empirically verifiable (capable of being verified by sense-data—seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling).”
In terms of the logic of Christianity, this move was a major blow to Christian faith. Since one cannot see, hear, taste, smell, or touch God, Empiricists could conclude that faith in God is “non-sense” (meaning literally that it is not based on “sense” data).
POSTMODERNISM. Then, I was born (around 1950) and the logical world exploded again (coincidence, not causality!) As it turns out, skepticism can be aimed not only at God and Christianity. It can also be aimed at Empiricism, Science, and even Mathematics. In terms of Empiricism, I can be fooled by my sense of sight, as when I see a mirage in the middle of the road. Hearing can be wrong, as when one has tinnitus—the hearing of sound when no external sound is present. The sense of smell can easily mistake the smell of sulfur water for rotten eggs. The sense of taste can cause one to think s/he has consumed butter, when it is actually Parkay margarine. The sense of touch can confuse having walked through hanging threads in a dark haunted house, so that one feels one has encountered spider webs and continues to have them on oneself. I continue, in Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, pages 6-7:
“[E]ven empirical evidence (sense-data) can be doubted, so Empiricism as a Modernist philosophy was largely discredited by the relentless application of methodological doubt. Mathematics was the last stronghold of Modernism. When Kurt Gödel [a friend of Einstein] demonstrated that even mathematics could be doubted—because the whole system proves itself by itself—Modernism effectively crumbled . . . . In place of Modernism, Postmodernism arose. Postmodernism could be called a Realistic philosophy in that it makes a truth claim: typically, ‘there is no truth’ or ‘there is relative truth.’ Burke is a Postmodern Realist, but he is not happy with either of these truth-related formulas. In his essay, ‘The Rhetorical Situation,’ Burke is much happier with a Postmodern truth-related formula such as ‘there is probable truth.’ Aristotle teaches that ‘probable truth’ is discovered through rhetoric. Christian Realism is close to Burke’s Postmodern view that “there is probable truth.”
WHAT A LOGICAL EXPLOSION POSTMODERNISM IS! Beginning with the Dawn of Man, humans concluded that an afterlife was logical—there is a realm beyond the grave. With the advent of Christianity, the world shifted from believing in the efficacy of animal sacrifice to please the gods. The truth was to be found in the teachings of the God of Abraham. With the Renaissance, the logical explosion began to abandon God as the source of truth and rediscover truth from human sources. Skepticism became the operative method of discovering truth. Then, around 1950, it became evident that skepticism had become bankrupt. With Gödel’s last nail in the coffin of Modernism, Postmodernists concluded that “THERE IS NO TRUTH!!!” What a scene: it is just as if the ultimate Nuclear War had taken place IN LOGIC! Instead of the pictures of the smoldering Los Angeles ruins from the Terminator movies, visualize the barren smoldering ruins of anything resembling logical truth. But, Burke points out that one cannot LOGICALLY say “There is no truth” because that statement is, in itself, a TRUTH CLAIM! If there is no truth, the statement that “there is no truth” CANNOT BE TRUE! Those (illogical) Postmodernists who still cling to the (illogical) statement that “there is no truth” continue to attempt to disparage the logic of Christianity, saying that it cannot be true, because there is NO truth. The only logical way out of this malaise is Burke’s formula: THERE IS PROBABLE TRUTH. If there is PROBABLE truth, we can reintroduce empirical data into the argument. But, we can also reintroduce non-empirical data—the logic that seems to be implicit in humanity since the dawn of man: that God and the afterlife do exist. We return full circle.
But, the new ground rules for logical argument are in the field of Rhetoric, not the field of Philosophy. As I stated in my earlier post, The Logic of Christianity 1: The Shroud, the Pope, and the Faith Continuum: “In his book, On Rhetoric, Aristotle teaches how rhetorical logic works. In rhetoric (as opposed to dialectic), the aim is not to provide absolute truth, but only possible or probable truth. It applies only to matters of which we cannot be certain. Nevertheless, although certainty is impossible, we can logically conclude that something is ‘probably’ or ‘possibly’ true. Aristotle says that the goal of this type of logic is to achieve ‘faith.’ . . . [And, as] the Bible says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).” The next link in this logical syllogistic chain, then is to argue that “action” took place before there was “human” action. We will turn to the “intelligent design” debate to establish that some agent was using “action” in the formation of the universe.


  1. Perhaps Aristotle, Renaissance man, and postmodernist philosophers (well maybe not the postmodernists) read Solomon's Ecclesiastes and illogically concluded he really thought all was vanity. But they failed to see that Philosopher was tongue in cheek for he obviously has happiness which is dependent on two empirical matters--decent days of work and an appreciation for God

  2. Interesting perspective. Aristotle was certainly aware of the use of hyperbole (Rhetoric III.11.15) and, in Nicomachean Ethics (1127b25), he attributes the use of irony to Socrates. Perhaps, Ecclesiastes employs similar tropes. Since, according to Nestle and Aland's Greek text, Ecclesiastes is never explicitly quoted in the New Testament, the Logic of Christianity is not committed in any way to a specific reading, interpretation, or application of Ecclesiastes.